The Hon’ble Tripura High Court has held that insults to religion made unintentionally/without any deliberate or hateful intention to outrage the religious feelings of a class would not amount to an offense under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
The Hon’ble Single Bench of Chief Justice observed, “Section 295A does not punish any and every act of insult or an attempt to insult the religion or the religious beliefs but it punishes only those acts of insults or attempts which have been committed with the deliberate and hateful intention of outraging the religious feelings of any particular class.”
The Hon’ble HC High quashed an FIR registered over a Facebook post on Bhagavad Gita. In holding so, the Hon’ble Bench referred to the Section 295A which clearly states that whoever, “with deliberate and hateful intention” of insulting the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, insults or attempts to insult the religion or religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
The Hon’ble Court while observing the matter referred to the findings of a Hon’ble Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Ramji Lal Modi vs. the State of UP, AIR 1957 SC 620, wherein the Hon’ble SC held “S.295A only punishes the aggravated form of insult to religion when it is perpetrated with the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of that class.” In other words, the language used in the section is not extensive enough to cover restrictions both within and without the limits of constitutionally permissible legislative action affecting the fundamental right guaranteed by Art. 19(1)(a).”
Needful to mention that in the present case, Justice Kureshi was presiding over a petition for quashing of the FIR registered against the Petitioner last year for allegedly hurting the religious sentiments of the Hindu community by insulting the Bhagavad Gita via his comments on social media.
As per the Complainant, the Petitioner-accused made untasteful and obscene comments on Hindu religion by saying that the Gita, the sacred religious text is a “thakbaji Gita” and posting it on Facebook.
At the outset, the Hon’ble Court in the case at hand noted, there is a dispute about what exactly did the Petitioner convey through the said post. It proceeded to hold that whatever the impugned term coined by the Petitioner may or may not mean, “it certainly does not convey the meaning which the complainant wants to ascribe namely that Bhagavad Gita, is a deceitful document.”
The Hon’ble Bench added, “The petitioner can hold his personal beliefs and within the framework of law can also express them, as long as he does not transgress any of the restrictions imposed by law to the freedom of his speech and expression.”
However, the Court was of the view that even if these contentions are accepted, it is not the role of the Court or for that matter the police to extract the meaning of a Facebook post to determine whether it is possible of any meaning or not. “It may be frivolous, it may be redundant, it may make no sense,” the judge remarked.
The Hon’ble Court further held that “Neither in the complaint nor before me by the State any such previous posts of the petitioner of offending nature, even if for the moment one were to presume that the present post is one, has been placed on record. Mere passing allegation of the petitioner being in habit of placing such posts, cannot be the ground for permitting inquiry.”
Accordingly, the petition came to be allowed and the FIR was quashed.
Case: Dulal Ghosh v. State of Tripura & Ors.